Life sciences briefing: Monday, Sept. 17, 2007

Featured companies: Bioptigen, Echo Therapeutics, Forest Laboratories, Intrinsic Therapeutics, Microbia, Phreesia, Sontra Medical, TransMedics, Xanthus Pharmaceuticals

[NOTE: This is a catchup briefing, posted on 9/28/07. I’ve adjusted the item’s timestamp to keep the briefings in chronological order. –D.P.H.]

phreesia_logo.jpgPatient-info digitizer Phreesia takes in $10.3M — Phreesia, a New York company that claims to offer a “100% free” — but ad-sponsored — digital patient check-in application to doctors, raised $10.3 million in a second funding round. Investors included Polaris Ventures Partners, HLM Venture Partners, Long River Ventures and Village Ventures.

Phreesia offers doctors wireless touch-screen pads and related software designed to replace the traditional check-in clipboard in doctors’ offices. Among other claimed benefits, the technology is designed to provide legible patient information and to conduct patient interviews — along the lines of those endless rows of checkboxes that ask you to recall your own medical history and sometimes that of your immediate family as well. The catch is that the devices will then beam sponsored “educational” content at patients, although Phreesia claims doctors can first review it and that patients can skip it if they want. (Any guesses on how easy people will find to do that?)

I hope to return to Phreesia before much longer — among other things, they plan to present at Demo this year. (UPDATE: They’ve done so, and apparently were named one of the best presentations at the conference.) And there are certainly plenty of cool things about this idea, not least the fact that returning patients can merely confirm their information instead of filling it all out again. Still, the service raises lots of questions, not least among them the consequences of letting “sponsors” — read: “drug companies” — have direct access to patients in waiting rooms. Anyway, this looks interesting enough that I’ll definitely take a closer look.

xanthus-logo.jpgXanthus aims for $30M to support leukemia treatment — Cambridge, Mass.-based Xanthus Pharmaceuticals, a biotech with a small-molecule drug against acute myeloid leukemia, intends to raise $30 million in a third funding round, VentureWire reports (subscription required). The company would aim to complete the funding by late this year or early next.

The leukemia drug, which the company calls Xanafide, has completed mid-stage human tests (PDF) that Xanthus claimed “associated” the drug with complete remissions. The trial wasn’t blinded or randomized, which in short means it’s almost impossible to draw such sweeping conclusions from it. Xanafide isn’t a particularly exotic drug, either; as a topoisomerase II inhibitor, it shares the same basic mechanism of action as many traditional chemotherapy drugs. Still, this is why companies carry out blinded, randomized late-stage trials, which Xanthus says it intends to begin with Xanafide before long.

intrinsic-tx-logo.jpgSpinal-device maker Intrinsic raises $21M — Intrinsic Therapeutics, a Woburn, Mass., device maker focused on minimally invasive spinal-disc repair, raised $21 million in a fourth funding round, VentureWire reports. Investors included New Enterprise Associates, Spray Venture Partners, Sprout Group and an unidentified institution.

The company’s been close-mouthed about its progress, although VentureWire reports that it recently began selling its disc devices in Europe. The financing is intended to fund future clinical trials and the costs of applying for FDA approval.

Live liver transplanter TransMedics files for $86.3M IPO — In case you’re not a Monty Python, that headline is a joke — although not by much. TransMedics, an Andover, Mass., medical-device company, aims to develop a box that can keep living, transplanted organs alive. They’ve filed to raise $86.3 million in an IPO. This is another fascinating-sounding company I’ll have to come back to once I’ve caught up on these briefings, but in the meantime feel free to check out their S-1 and their Web site. Also, I should note that TransMedics is actually focused on heart transplants, not liver.

Eye imager Bioptigen gets $500K infusion — Durham, N.C.-based Bioptigen received a $500,000 convertible financing as it prepares for a second funding round. Investors included the Piedmont Angel Network Two and other existing investors. Bioptigen is developing a real-time imaging system for ophthalmic indications.

Microbia strikes deal worth up to $330M for GI disorders — Microbia, a Cambridge, Mass., biotech with a focus on gastrointestinal and heart disease, struck a partnership with New York’s Forest Laboratories worth up to $330 million to develop its first GI drug. Microbia gets a $70 million upfront payment and milestone and licensing payments worth much more if the development is successful. Microbia has already raised $231 million in venture equity. See the company’s release here (PDF).